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Moving sucks. Ex-Qualcomm engineers build AI startup Yembo to help

November 15, 2018

Yembo co-founders Siddharth Mohan (left) and Zach Rattner, with team. (Eduardo Contreras / San Diego Union-Tribune)

 

 

Tech startup founded by two ex-Qualcomm engineers has created software to make moving to a new home a little less stressful — and hopefully a little cheaper.

The company, called Yembo, is tackling one of the most common complaints surrounding moving companies: the price customers pay is rarely the price they were first quoted. Yembo’s co-founder Zach Rattner said one moving company he studied was charging customers up to 40 or 50 percent more than their initial quotes.

While customers feel like moving companies are intentionally pulling bait and switch tactics, Rattner said it’s more likely a lack of resources for movers.

“The home services industry is stuck in the 1980s when it comes to technology,” Rattner said. It costs time and money to send a human estimator to a home or business to assess a job. Instead, moving companies often give quotes over the phone, which can be wildly inaccurate when the final bill arrives.

The whole house-scanning process takes about 9 minutes on average for a three-bedroom property. Plus, it doesn’t require movers to survey properties on nights and weekends, nor does it require customers to rearrange their work schedules to accommodate a visit from the mover.

The concept has been popular with moving companies, Rattner said, with about 35 customers on a waitlist to use the software. After doing a soft launch in May, Yembo signed on three paying customers that collectively pushed 2,000 users to the site. For now, moving companies pay a monthly fee to use the software-as-a-service, and rates vary depending on the number of estimates the company conducts. Rattner said the company is using their feedback to polish the software before a wider launch.

Before Yembo’s launch, Rattner and his co-founder Siddharth Mohan were working together in Qualcomm’s innovation department, specializing in writing code for artificial intelligence. In their world there was lots of “sexy” technology companies. While entrepreneurship was alluring, Rattner said they had no interest in joining a crowded market of AI startups.

“We wanted to find an industry that wouldn’t fall into the popular and sexy AI realm,” Rattner said. “No self-driving cars or drones. Instead, we wanted to find a market that would never see this technology coming. And by the time people realize the opportunity… we’ll already be done.”

Founded in 2016, Yembo has raised $1 million from some high-profile investors, including Steve Altman, the former president of Qualcomm, and Arjun Bansal, the co-founder of Nervana Systems, an AI startup that sold to Intel for $400 million. Just last month, Yembo won $20,000 in San Diego’s largest startup competition — Quick Pitch — for taking second place and winning a bonus check for being the audience favorite.

The company employs 28 people worldwide, including eight at its San Diego headquarters at 6540 Lusk Blvd.

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